Santa School Trains Would-Be St. Nicks in Beards, Bad Breath and 'Ho Ho Ho'


The school brings in a trainer from the local gym to help Santas stay in good shape, a must for picking up hundreds of children per day, and the training is not complete without perfecting the all important "ho ho ho."

"They even brought in an attorney whose primary emphasis was to make sure that you had both hands in every picture," said 64-year-old Ray Davis, a land surveyor who's been doing Santa for eight years.

Yes, Santa needs liability insurance.

"You have to watch the way you handle the children," said Tom Valent, dean of the school. "If you're gonna sit them on your knee, keep your hands exposed so people and the cameras can see them."

Across the U.S. this holiday season at least 70,000 Santas are suiting up at malls, parades, company parties and other venues. These Santas are part of a growing number of office workers and retirees looking to make extra money to supplement their income.

On average, many Santas can make between $20,000 to $50,000 during the holidays, and a few lucky ones rake in $80,000 or more. That's a good thing, because authentic Santa outfits can cost north of $2,000, and black boots are going for $400 these days.

Aside from the attire and the lessons from the Santa School, most Santa students agree that the appearance of the hair and beard is key.

Schmidt and Davis get theirs done at Sue Myers beauty shop in Midland.

"The beard needs to be a very soft white," said Myers, who has bleached and coiffed the curls of some of the finest Santas in the land for 15 years. "The color has an illusion, and if you have dark hairs in there, it looks dry or wiry."

Myers shared with "20/20" her biggest secret: peppermint oil. Just a touch for Santa's beard.

"It makes Santa smell like a candy cane for the children," said Davis.

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